SKETCH: Head of the Parcel-Passers Gets a Pounding at TSC

Did he regret it? Andrew Tyrie had the regulator in of one of the bodies that is supposed to oversee the banking industry. This one is called the Financial Conduct Authority and seems to have been as useless if not more useless than any of the others. Its boss is called something or other, it doesn’t matter what, but he was the one who approved the appointment of the Rev Mr Flowers to the chair of the Co-op bank.

“I don’t think it was a mistake,” Reggie the Regulator said and kept saying, only adding, “given the information I had at the time.”

But why didn’t he have better information? Ah – well, no one had come forward with it. That had been “disappointing”, in his regulatory opinion. How about the conviction for “gross indecency”? That was not relevant. It was a spent conviction. Or then, his other criminal conviction for drink driving? Both involved, shall we say, risk-taking behaviour (John Mann). Gross indecency, drink driving, no experience of banking, no knowledge of financial services, interviewed for an hour and a half, no references taken up, no check as to whether the Co-op had taken up references, interviewed by two relatively junior officials of the Financial Services Authority . . .

“Didn’t that make any bells ring?” Pat Mcfadden asked

Not with the information the regulator had. And not for the work he was to do. You see, Flowers wasn’t to run the bank he was to run the board.

So, Tyrie rephrased the proposition, marvelling at its oddness, there was a large unruly board with two merged companies represented on it, and faced with a momentous decision that could (and would) wreck the bank and need a billion-pound-plus bail-out . . . the regulator’s solution was “to put a financial illiterate in charge of it?”

Reggie made a reply of some sort. Tyrie asked: “Do you now think that was regrettable?”

“At the time we did our job effectively.”

“How can you possibly say it was correct at the time?”

It was rubbish in/ rubbish out. It was box ticking. It was an elementary mistake. It was a negligent decision.

He certainly took a pounding. What will come of it – we will have to wait and see.

As Andrea Leadsome said “We’ve had witness after witness coming in here saying it wasn’t their fault, and you’re another one.”

The regulator said that the decision wasn’t flawed. The problem was that “the stress analysis crystallised”.

That defence deserves jail-time.

There is only one way that bankers are made to avoid unquantifiable risk: by making them bet with their own money. When they lose, their house goes, they move out beyond the ring road and their children are taken out of school. Maybe we can start including the regulators in this nice paradigm.




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Quote of the Day

The FT’s Wolfgang Munchau on the “fake maths” of economic forecasts:

“The truth is that our ability to forecast the future beyond the current quarter is limited… The curse of our time is fake maths. Think of it as fake news for numerically literate intellectuals: it is the abuse of statistics and economic models to peddle one’s own political prejudice… The fakeness of the maths lies in an exaggerated inference. Economic models have their uses, as do opinion polls. They provide information to policymakers and markets. But nobody can see through the fog of the future.”

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